Industrial news in brief

Submitted by Matthew on 11 January, 2017 - 1:50 Author: Ollie Moore, Charlotte Zalens, Peggy Carter and Gemma Short

Workers at Picturehouse Cinema’s flagship “Picturehouse Central” location, near London’s Piccadilly Circus, will shortly begin balloting for new strikes, as part of a growing dispute which also involves workers at Picturehouse’s Brixton, Hackney, and Crouch End sites. The ballot, the timetable for which has yet to be announced, is for further strikes to demand the London Living Wage, decent sick pay, and other improvements to workers’ terms and conditions.

Workers at Picturehouse Central, Brixton, and Hackney recently concluded a ballot for joint strikes, which returned huge majorities on a large turnout. However, Picturehouse bosses threatened legal action over a technicality, and the workers’ union, Bectu, decided that the ballot should be re-run. A Bectu rep told Solidarity: “It’s frustrating to have to run the ballot again, especially after securing such excellent results. The turnout and majorities for strikes showed the strength of feeling in the workplace so hopefully we can replicate that and not lose momentum. The only advantage to having to re-ballot is that it allows us to bring the Crouch End site into the dispute. Spreading the strikes is the key to victory.”

Workers at the Hackney Picturehouse struck for five days between 16-21 December, and on 23 December and 1 January. Workers at the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton struck on 16 December. Picturehouse bosses managed to keep the cinemas open by paying managers from Picturehouse locations in Cambridge, Oxford, and elsewhere to cover shifts, including providing hotel accommodation for them. They have also attempted to bully workers by threatening legal proceedings against union reps for their alleged conduct on picket lines. Workers at a further Picturehouse cinema in East Dulwich may soon begin their own ballots for strikes. Benefit gigs for the workers’ strike fund are planned in Crouch End on 13 January and Hackney on 18 January.

Crouch End fundraiser
Hackney fundraiser

“Second-tier” cabin crew fight back

Cabin crew working for British Airways struck on 10-11 January in a dispute over pay. The 2900 workers are part of the so-called ″mixed fleet″, workers who have been recruited by BA since 2011 and paid far worse than those who worked for BA prior to 2011. The workers′ union Unite says that the level of wages are so low that many workers are forced to take a second job.

The ″mixed-fleet″ was the result of a long-running dispute from 2009-2011 which saw several strikes by cabin crew. The deal struck protected the pay and conditions of existing workers but created a two tier workforce. Workers have rejected a pay offer of 2% in the first year, and 2.4% in years two and three, saying it comes nowhere near addressing their poverty wages.

Durham TAs keep close eye on negotiations

Negotiations between Durham County Council and teaching assistants have restarted after strikes stopped the council′s plans to sack them all on December 31 and re-hire them on inferior terms and conditions on 1 January. The council has now committed to conducting a review into the plan which is due to be completed by September.

Teaching assistant Trish Fay said: “This is not over. They have only suspended, not withdrawn, the new contracts while negotiations are under way, but we do now have the opportunity to work with the council to review our roles, which have changed massively over the last five years.

“However, if we don’t see real progress in the next few months TAs, Unison and ATL, are clear that we will not hesitate to reinstate our industrial action to ensure we get a fair solution for all teaching assistants.”

Harrods: pass on tips!

The United Voices of the World union held a protest outside Harrods on Saturday 7 December to protest at the department store′s policy on tips and service charges in its cafes and restaurants.

Harrods reportedly keeps up to 75% of the service charge, meaning staff lose out on up to £5,000 a year. Staff who have joined the UVW report that it is unclear what percentage of the service charge is kept by the employer and how it is divided amongst workers. Meanwhile Harrods owner, Qatar Holding, paid itself £100.1m in dividends in 2016, pre-tax profits rose by 19%, and the highest paid director earned £1.6m.

UWV secretary Petros Elia was arrested at the demonstration along with several other UVW members and supporters. Petros was held by police for 17 hours before being released without charge, but on bail conditions which preventing him going within 50 metres of Harrods. Upon release Petros said: ″The police have therefore temporarily banned me from representing members of UVW at Harrods or from protesting outside their store. This has all sorts of human rights implications.

“The police would appear to be, once again, politically policing — and perhaps even acting, in this case, on behalf of the Qatar Royal Family, who own Harrods and apparently even more of London than the Crown Estate — to stamp out the United Voices of the World’s unionisation of Harrods workers″.

Fujitsu workers strike again

Workers at Fujitsu in Manchester are striking again on 12-13, 16 and 19-20 January. The strikes are the latest in a dispute over pay, pensions and job security. Workers have struck for 9 days so far. Fujitsu is warning of 1800 UK job cuts, and about 2600 workers have received letters telling them they are ″in scope″ for redundancy.

Workers at the Manchester site have previously fought off some job cuts and won better redundancy and redeployment terms — however Fujitsu is now breaking those agreements. Manchester Fujitsu strikers have been holding rallies and pickets of business who use Fujitsu, and were part of a solidarity rally organised by Manchester Trades Council in December.

Publisher derecognises unions

Unions at Penguin Random House were left stunned in mid-December when the publisher announced it would be terminating its collective agreements with unions. The publisher announced it would not be recognising the unions at its London sites after management failed to agree redundancy terms with unions in talks. The decision affects workers represented by both the National Union of Journalists and Unite.

Following outrage from staff and high profile authors who are published by Penguin Random House, talks resumed between the unions and the employer late in December, but there is no clear resolution yet.

Merseyside bus drivers strike

Bus drivers in Merseyside struck for a fortnight from 28 December — 10 January in a dispute over pay. Drivers voted for 81% for strikes after rejecting a pay offer of just 1.5% for 2016, and 2% for 2017. Workers have also rejected offers which would have seen a slight improvement on their pay but created a two-tier workforce where all new drivers were worse off by £620 a year.

Unite regional officer Ritchie James said: ″The offer for 2016 of 1.5 per cent is in the bottom ten per cent of pay settlements that have been negotiated with Stagecoach across the UK by Unite. “The two per cent offer for 2017 is well below the inflation forecasts for next year.″